SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers try to avoid making history

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Four games and counting.

That’s how long the Edmonton Oilers have to put this miserable season to bed and avoid being remembered as the worst team in franchise history.

Currently, that distinction belongs to the 1992-93 edition of the club, which only managed to earn 60 points in an 84-game season.

Back then, Edmonton managed just 26 victories and didn’t have the luxury of gaining loser points for defeats in overtime or shootouts — although the team did have eight ties.

This year’s club has 24 victories and eight loser points on the season.

They’ll close it out by hosting the Minnesota Wild tonight and the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday before departing for Southern California for weekend encounters against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

This marks the fourth consecutive season the Oilers have failed to make the playoffs, but the first time they’ll have the privilege of being one the top two teams to select at the June NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

Following their dismal 1992-93 campaign, the Oilers had the seventh overall pick in the draft. Surprisingly enough, they weren’t even close to being the worst team in the league, as the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks both earned just 24 points that season.

Edmonton went on to select Jason Arnott with that seventh pick, then squandered the 16th overall selection on Nick Stajduhar — ignoring the likes of Saku Koivu and Todd Bertuzzi.

Eventually, the Oilers were able to work their way back into the playoffs after missing the post-season for the next three years.

This time around, the club will either select Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin with their first-round pick and then begin the long process of re-establishing credibility and working their way back up the standings.

General manager Steve Tambellini will have his work cut out for him over the summer, dismantling a team with too many high-priced underachievers who are difficult to move.

Buyouts are in order, and solid draft choices after the first two picks will be key.

The moves Tambellini made at the trade deadline seem to have the club already heading in the right direction.

Ryan Whitney has the makings of an elite defenceman and his arrival has seemingly sparked Tom Gilbert’s game.

“It looks like they have the possibility to be a real good pair,” head coach Pat Quinn said after Saturday’s loss to the Coyotes in Phoenix.

“They work well together now, they get open for each other and they both have a good skill level.

“It’s a positive feeling you have going into next year. They’re going to be a good tandem for us.”

Getting healthy again should also improve the team’s fortunes for next season.

The club lost a number of key players to season-ending injuries this year, which really accentuated their lack of depth.

By the time the puck drops on the 2010-11 campaign, the Oilers should have the majority of their injured players back in the lineup.

In the meantime, they just have to lick their wounds and put this catastrophic season behind them.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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